- Tina Keane born 1940
- Video, colour and sound (stereo)
- Duration: 36min, 50sec
- Purchased 2020
In Our Hands, Greenham 1982–4 is a thirty-eight-minute-long video with sound by Tina Keane which celebrates the women’s peace protest that began in 1981 outside RAF Greenham Common, in Berkshire, England. Greenham Common was used as a base by both the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War and Cold War, and subsequently as a storage facility for American nuclear cruise missiles until 1992. The goals of the women’s protest were the removal of the cruise missiles from Greenham Common and cessation of the use of nuclear weapons in general.
Keane’s video layers imagery of a silhouetted pair of slowly moving hands, close-up footage of spiders, and documentation of the women at the peace camp outside Greenham Common. A woman’s voice on the soundtrack describes a personal moment of revelation about the threat to the world by nuclear weapons, and her subsequent decision to take action. She describes how the women, having initially marched for disarmament, decided instead to simply stay at the perimeter fence of the base and form a peace camp there. Press attention initially, she says, often focused on how the women’s husbands were ‘coping’ without them, rather than the issue of nuclear disarmament itself.
Using what was then a new video superimposition tool, Chroma Key, Keane created composite images, so that the silhouettes of the hands, which are in constant motion, encircle and enclose the footage of the women singing protest songs, while also being bathed in a shifting and dreamlike spectrum of colours. The event that Keane filmed became known as Embrace the Base, at which 30,000 women held hands to form a human chain around the perimeter fence of Greenham Common. The soundtrack captures the women’s songs, with lyrics such as ‘take those toys away from those boys’. The footage sporadically cuts to images of spiders whose busy activity merges with the movement of the hands. In 1993 the writer and critic Jean Fisher described the hands and spider imagery in this work in terms of collective action and efforts at empowerment:
Tina Keane takes up a primary metaphor in the peace camp: women’s industry (productivity) as it works to form the matrix of community, yet its exclusion from the site of power. Images of a spider spinning her web are juxtaposed with footage of the women’s activities – joining hands around the base, weaving webs of wool to symbolise strength in unity.
(Jean Fisher, ‘Reflections on Echo: Sound by Women Artists in Britain and Ireland during the 1980s’, 1993, https://www.jeanfisher.com/reflections-on-echo/, accessed 10 April 2019.)
In Our Hands, Greenham exists both as a single channel video, which can be shown on either a monitor or a flat screen, and as an installation comprising twelve monitors. Tate’s version is from the single channel edition of seven plus one artist’s proof and is number one in the edition. It is exemplary of Keane’s experimental film practice as also seen in Faded Wallpaper 1988 (Tate T14991). Since the mid-1970s, she has explored issues relating to female identity and empowerment across a range of media from performance and installation to film, video and digital art.
Richard Dyer, Jean Fisher and Peter Wollen, Electronic Shadows: The Art of Tina Keane, London 2004.
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